AirAsia X (AAX), the long haul affiliate of Malaysian airline AirAsia, Asia's leading low-cost carrier, has announced the launch of a five times weekly London Stansted-Kuala Lumpur low cost, long-haul service from 11 March 2009. The service is being offered with starting fares of £99 one-way, including taxes on Airbus A340-300 aircraft configured for 286 passengers.
The fares will undercut existing full-service network carriers by 40 to 50 per cent, with average fares expected to be about £150 one way. For instance, AirAsiaX's average return fare of approximately £300 would compare to a return fare in the region of £650 with an established brand, such as Malaysia Airlines.
Tony Fernandes, chief executive and founder of AirAsia, said the long-haul services would "revolutionise" air travel between Europe and Asia. According to Fernandes, the carrier could eventually serve the route with "five to seven daily flights".
The carrier said about 20 per cent of seats would be offered at the lowest prices. AAX will be able to offer such low fares as it will charge for "extras," including in-flight food, amenity kits, checked baggage and advanced seat selection.
The A340-300 aircraft will be configured with 256 economy seats (with a seat pitch of 32 inches) and 30 "XL" seats (60-inch pitch), which the carrier says will offer "the spaciousness and comfort equivalent to business class seats on legacy carriers' without the extra frills like check-in desks and airport lounges".
Fares for the XL seats will start from £549 each way, and Fernandes said he was "keen on putting in flat beds" in the future.
Fernandes pointed out that AAX would offer travellers onward connections across Asia at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) with its established sister short-haul airline, Air Asia. Though no such formal links are available for the time being at Stansted, the airport had been picked "because of its great low-cost connectivity across Europe."
Defending his low-cost, long-haul concept Fernandes said that unlike the collapsed Oasis Hong Kong Airlines, Air Asia was an established brand with 86 planes and a hub at KLIA. He also pointed out that AAX's service to Australia's Gold Coast airport, which launched last year November, disproved the theory that "you can't charge for food on long-haul flights."
He also said that one of the major differences between the carrier and other unsuccessful low-cost long-haul airlines would be AAX's ability to tap into the short-haul network at KLIA.
London is the carrier's fifth long-haul destination, after the Gold Coast, Perth, Melbourne and Hangzhou (around 100 miles southwest of Shanghai).